Pixel Scroll 8/6/21 Mrs. Scroll, We’re Pixeled

(1) BRIANNA WU’S REVELATION. The Brianna Wu tweet below led the Washington Post to interview her about the significance of the apologies, and what forgiveness does and doesn’t entail.

Read the Washington Post article here: “GamerGaters inundated Brianna Wu with death threats. Now some are apologizing — and she forgives them”.

…In the years since GamerGate, Wu said she has received more than 100 apologies from the trolls and harassers who fixated on her. And though the apologies are outpaced 10-to-1 by insults and continued harassment, she says she nearly always forgives those who apologize.

She wants to be clear: Many people involved in GamerGate have not learned and don’t deserve forgiveness. But some, she says, truly did and do. And when she hears their stories, she generally can’t help but tell them she accepts their apologies.

Wu said she gets a message about once a week along these lines: Hey, you don’t know me, but I wanted reach out to you and apologize. I was part of the people sending you death threats and things during GamerGate. I was egged on by my friends, I was dealing with depression, I was in the closet, my parents were getting divorced, something like that. And I look back at that and I feel a deep sense of shame, and I’m very sorry.

She said her conviction to forgive GamerGaters began after the first time she met one in 2015. She had just given a talk at a college, and he approached her afterward to explain why he had supported the movement.

“I’m not talking to a monster, I’m talking to someone that is under-socialized and lonely and is looking for respect, which I think is something all of us as humans understand,” she said. “It was such a lightbulb moment, that these aren’t people I should be angry with as much as people I should try to have empathy for.”..

The reaction to the Washington Post article shows there remain many unrepentant abusers.

(2) VALUE OF TRIGGER WARNINGS. Queer Sci Fi’s J. Scott Coatsworth announced in “FOR READERS: Trigger Warnings” a public Facebook group discussion: “Trigger warnings – we’ve all seen them. When are they useful to you? When are they not?” There are several dozen responses.

(3) PROPOSED HEART TEST. Kharma Kelley reacted to the controversy over one of the RWA’s Vivian Award winners (see a roundup here) by proposing a screening test. Thread starts here.

(4) FRAZETTA, THE NEXT GENERATION. The Rogues in the House podcast hears from Sara Frazetta, granddaughter of Frank: “Sara Frazetta Interview”.

The Rogues are thrilled to host Sara Frazetta from Frazetta Girls. Tune in as we discuss her grandfather’s legacy, her business approach to bringing that legacy to a new audience of sword and sorcery fans, and her own journey of discovery in the S&S genre.

(5) GET UPSIDE DOWN AGAIN. “Stranger Things 4 confirms 2022 release with teaser footage”SYFY Wire analyzes the video for clues.

… Among the never-before-seen snippets, you can see Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) being detained by what looks like shady government agents, Hopper (David Harbour) entering a room with an active flamethrower (à la Kurt Russell in The Thing), a high school cheerleading squad, and a group of core characters (Steve, Dustin, Nancy, Max, Lucas, and Robin) exploring a creepy old house. Even with these small flashes, you can tell that our young heroes are maturing along with the overall scope….

(6) THERE WILL BE WARHAMMER. The Scroll linked to Cory Doctorow’s post “Games Workshop declares war on its customers (again)” two days ago. Now, in “Warhammer 40k Fans in Revolt Over ‘Zero Tolerance’ Fan Animation Policy”, Vice reports from the rebellion’s front line.

In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war between fan communities and the corporations that own the intellectual property they love. The Warhammer 40k community is furious at Games Workshop, the tabletop game’s creator, because of new “zero tolerance” policies about fan-made animation videos. 

….At issue is an update to Games Workshop’s intellectual property guidelines. The new policies explicitly laid out the dos and don’ts of how the company wants fans to handle Warhammer 40K and its other universes. At the bottom, it detailed a list of infringements it has a “zero tolerance” policy towards. It includes pirating books, using a 3D printer to make copies of their models, and a ban on fan animations.

“Individuals must not create fan films or animations based on our settings and characters,” the guidelines said. “These are only to be created under licence from Games Workshop.”

… GW is a notoriously litigious company so it’s no shock that Alfabusa and others are packing it in ahead of possible litigation. It has repeatedly attempted to enforce a trademark on the words “Space Marines” with mixed results and gone to legal war with a company that was manufacturing miniatures of characters it had never made.

On August 25, GW will launch Warhammer Plus—a subscription service for Warhammer fans that includes access to several planned animated series, which may in the community say must be the impetus for the new policy. One of those series is Astartes, which began life as an unlicensed fan-made YouTube show by creator Syama Pedersen. It caught caught GWs attention and it offered Pedersen a job. This is the exact kind of thing GW’s new policy seeks to eliminate….

(7) RIDING THE EARWORMS. “Arrakis Rippers: A Guide to ‘Dune’-Inspired Metal” at Bandcamp Daily. List five bands, with introductions and sample tracks.

…It goes without saying that Scottish progressive post-metal quintet DVNE have been heavily influenced by Frank Herbert’s work. Starting out as an instrumental three piece, the band were trying to figure out what message they wanted to get across through their music, while coming up with their name. “It felt like we were trying to tell a story, and the best kind of story with us would be something out-of-this-world,” explains singer Victor Vicart, recounting the band’s beginnings….

…. Big fans of the Dune saga, Seattle-based doom rockers Sandrider ended up naming themselves after the Fremen wormriders of Arrakis, whom they felt embodied the heavy direction of their music. “Thematically, a little desert warrior surfing a massive sand worm fits the sound of the band pretty well,” says singer Jon Weisnewski….

(8) THE POINT. “With billions in federal funding at stake, library leaders must see this moment for what it is: a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to truly transform the future of libraries,” says Sari Feldman in “An Inflection Point for Libraries” at Publishers Weekly. (The title prompted Michael Toman “to wonder if anyone has ever written a “Jonbar Point for Libraries” (featuring Benjamin Franklin?) story?”

… The last 18 months with Covid-19 has been a historically difficult period. But with the rollout of safe and incredibly effective vaccines, we can now see the way forward. And if there is a silver lining as we prepare to hopefully come out of this pandemic, it is that the important work of libraries has once again gained the attention of Congress.

In 2020, lawmakers appropriated an additional $50 million in relief funding to be distributed to libraries via the IMLS through the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act). And in March of 2021, IMLS received another $200 million boost to distribute via the American Rescue Plan Act the largest single investment in the agency’s 25-year history.

Building on that support, Congress last month approved significant increases in annual federal library funding in the FY2022 budget, including a $25 million increase for the IMLS that includes a $9 million increase for the LSTA (the Library Services and Technology Act); a $3 million increase in IAL funding (Innovative Approaches to Literacy); an additional $37 million for the Library of Congress, and new funding for Native American libraries, as well as other institutions that serve diverse populations, including historically black colleges and universities….

(9) ASTEROID BELT AND SUSPENDERS. Bill Capossere reviews a compelling book titled “Asteroids: How Love, Fear, And Greed Will Determine Our Future in Space” at Fantasy Literature.

Asteroids: How Love, Fear, And Greed Will Determine Our Future in Space (2021), by Martin Elvis, is a thorough and wonderfully detailed exploration not of asteroids as objects (which he does do to some extent), but of the possibility of our interacting with them in order to a) prevent them from killing us off as one did (maybe) to the dinosaurs, b) exploit them for resources, and c) use them as a stepping stone for further exploitation of space. If you thought the idea of asteroid mining belongs only in the realm of science fiction, Elvis will (probably) convince you otherwise….

(10) ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION. At Nerds of a Feather Arturo Serrano has an interesting take on Masters of the Universe: Revelation, unfortunately with a spoiler in the title, thus we’ll just say the link is here.

When your character is defined plainly as “the most powerful man in the universe,” there’s no such thing as narrative stakes. In any episode of the classic He-Man show, which ran from 1983 to 1985, there’s never any question that the hero will win. He’s beyond Superman syndrome, beyond Dragon Ball syndrome: he simply can’t be beaten. Whereas Superman syndrome was addressed early in his stories with the addition of kryptonite, and Dragon Ball syndrome can be temporarily patched with yet another escalation, He-Man syndrome has no solution… 

(11) ANIMANIACS SEASON 2. Come join the Warner Brothers and the Warner Sister Dot as they announce that Season 2 of Animaniacs with 13 new episodes will premiere on November 5 on Hulu. Narf!

(12) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2000 – Twenty-one years ago at Chicon 2000 where Harry Turtledove was the Toastmaster, Galaxy Quest would win the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo. It would also win the Nebula Award for Best Script.  It was directed by Dean Parisot with the screenplay by David Howard and Robert Gordon; the story was written by David Howard. The other Hugo finalists were The Matrix (which was just three votes behind it in the final count), The Sixth SenseBeing John Malkovich and The Iron Giant

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 6, 1911 Lucille Ball. She became the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu Productions, which is where Star Trek was produced. Her support of the series kept it from being terminated by the financial backers even after it went way over budget in the first pilot. (Died 1989.)
  • Born August 6, 1926 Janet Asimov. Author of some half dozen novels and a fair amount of short fiction on her own, mostly as J.O. Jeppson; co-author with her husband, Isaac, of the Norby Chronicles. Her memoir, Notes for a Memoir: On Isaac Asimov, Life, and Writing, came out thirteen years ago. (Died 2019.)
  • Born August 6, 1956 Ian R. MacLeod,  65. Another author I need to read more of. I’ve read the first two in what’s called the Aether Universe series, The Light Ages and The House of Storms, but there are other novels I’m intrigued by, including Song of Time and The Great Wheel. He’s won some impressive Awards including three Sidewise Awards for The Summer Isles (short and long forms) and for Wake Up and Dream novel. He also won a World Fantasy Award for “The Chop Shop” short story. 
  • Born August 6, 1960 Leland Orser, 61. If you look closely, you’ll spot him in Escape from L.A. as Test Tube and in Independence Day in the dual roles of the Day Tech and a Medical Assistant.  He’s in Daredevil as Wesley Owen Welch, Kingpin’s right hand man. And someone at Trek casting liked him as he was on Deep Space NineVoyager and Enterprise. All different roles. 
  • Born August 6, 1962 Michelle Yeoh, 59. Her first meaningful genre roles was as Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies and Yu Shu Lien in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I actually remember her as Zi Yuan in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the first film of a since cancelled franchise. And then there’s her dual roles in the Trek universe where she’s Captain Philippa Georgiou and Emperor Philippa Georgiou. She’s attached to the Section 31 Star Trek series announced in 2019 as being in development. 
  • Born August 6, 1972 Paolo Bacigalupi, 49. I remember the book group I was part of some years ago having a spirited debate over The Windup Girl (which won a Hugo at Aussiecon 4 and a Nebula as well) over the believability of the central character. I think he did a better job with characters in his next novels, Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities, but he’s really not about characters anyways. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) DISCOVER MANHWA. Publishers Weekly tells why “Korean Comics Gain Popularity in North America”.

There’s more to Korean comics than webtoons. While vertical-scroll digital comics have surged in popularity among English speakers since the Netcomics, Webtoon, and Tapas Media platforms started publishing Korean comics in English, the growth in popularity of print manhwa (the Korean term for comics) in North America has been more of a slow burn.

While manhwa overall remains a small category in the print comics world, the category is growing in the North American marketplace. Drawn and Quarterly has published several manhwa a year since 2017, and their 2019 manhwa, Grass by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, a powerful story of sexual slavery during WWII, won the Cartoonist Studio Prize for Best Print Comic of the Year and was nominated for two Eisner awards. Chugong’s Solo Leveling, an action fantasy manhwa that started out as an online webtoon, has been a bestseller in print for Yen Press. Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook and Ryan Estrada with art by Hyung-Ju Ko, a memoir of Sook’s college years under a repressive Korean government, was published by Iron Circus Comics and nominated for an Eisner Award this year. And in August, Ablaze Comics will publish the first volume of the action manhwa The Breakers, by Jeon Guk-jin and Kamaro, as a 400-page omnibus….

(16) EXPLAINING THE WORLD. James Davis Nicoll looks far south to find “Five Fantasy Stories Inspired by Mesoamerican History and Folklore”.

… The world is a very large and old place, however, and there is no compelling reason for authors to reject alternative inspirations. These five authors, for example, turned to Mesoamerican history and folklore to produce five very different works….

Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard (2010)

Death is natural, an unavoidable part of the world. Accordingly, God of death Mictlantecuhtli commands cautious respect as one who rules a fundamental aspect of existence. Acatl, Mictlantecuhtli’s priest, has many duties that demand daily attention. Being drawn into the role of amateur detective should not be one of them.

Priestess Eleuia has vanished. Perhaps she absconded under her own power but the fact her room is painted with blood suggests otherwise. The signs suggest she has carried off by some occult means. Whodunnit? Acatl is tasked to find out.

The list of people who wanted Eleuia dead is short. Near the top of the list is Acatl’s warrior brother, Neutemoc. With authorities more concerned with finding someone to blame than with finding the correct person to blame, either Acatl clears his brother or Neutemoc is doomed. And there is no guarantee Neutemoc is innocent.

(17) OLD TIME RELIGION. The initial tweet inspired some artists to respond with drawings of characters based on the discovery.  Thread starts here.

(18) TEETHING. Nothing is certain but death and taxonomy. This spoiler-filled featurette explains the human-animal hybrids in Sweet Tooth.

(19) CLAYMATION BULLET TIME. io9 has three more 15-second videos to close out the series: “Sci-Fi Claymation: 2001, The Matrix, Alien for Dust”.

Over the past few weeks, you may have noticed an uptick in io9 posts featuring short claymation scenes recreating iconic moments from famous sci-fi movies. We shared Star Trek II and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and now we’ve reached the grand finale. Not one, not two, but three all-time sci-fi classics2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix, and Alien.

These little slices of clay-recreated heaven come from artist Joseph Brett, who did them to commemorate the fifth anniversary of online sci-fi platform Dust….

(20) BUG HUNT WARNING. YouTuber Kyle Kallgren has posted the third part in his series on Heinlein and Vanderhoven’s Starship Troopers. It comes with bonus mentions of a wide variety of other SFF-nal names and topics, mixed in with a lot of discussion of fascism.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Rob Thornton, Jennifer Hawthorne, Michael J. Walsh, Cora Buhlert, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

RWA Rescinds One of the Inaugural Vivian Awards

The Romance Writers of America’s announcement of the inaugural Vivian Awards on July 31 was met by an immediate backlash against one of the winners.

The “Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements” category winner, At Love’s Command by Karen Witemeyer, is a western romance whose male protagonist takes part in the Wounded Knee massacre and then is redeemed by religion and the love of a good woman. The award drew social media users’ attention to the novel’s portrayal of a genocidal event, and initiated many complaints, especially on Twitter.

“As a Taino, I’m not at all surprised that a book has romanticized genocide. However, I am VERY (disappointed) to see it won an award,” tweeted author Mimi Milan. “Membership permanently cancelled.”

“A ‘romance’ in which the ‘hero’ commits genocide against Native Americans is honored with an award named after the pioneering Black woman founder of RWA is why the organization continues to bleed membership,” tweeted Kymberlyn Reed.

Reed’s tweet refers to the new RWA board’s effort to recover from the mass resignations of officers and loss of members after their predecessors’ attempt to censure Courtney Milan. One measure taken to signal their changing vision for the problem-ridden organization was to remake RWA’s annual awards, retiring the old RITA Awards and creating a new series named after RWA’s founder Vivian Stephens, an African-American woman.

On August 2, the day after the complaints broke out, RWA President LaQuette issued a “Statement on 2021 VIVIAN Awards” that defended the awards finalists as a whole, and contended none of the 13 judges who scored the Witemeyer book had reported any “perceived objectionable or harmful content” to staff as judges had been instructed to do.  

LaQuette also asserted that “Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements, as a subgenre of romance, requires a redemptive arc as a genre convention. Essentially, the character can’t be redeemed by human means; only through their spiritual/religious awakening can they find redemption for their moral failings and or crimes against humanity” – implying that the type of character being objected to is baked into the category definition. However, the RWA’s Vivian Contest Rules only say that eligible works are those “in which spiritual beliefs are an inherent part of the love story, character growth or relationship development, and could not be removed without damaging the storyline. These novels may be set in the context of any religious or spiritual belief system of any culture.”

RWA’s statement was condemned by another 2021 Vivian winner, Sara Whitney, who announced she would decline her award in protest: “My statement about returning the Vivian award”.

Saturday night, I won the inaugural Vivian award for Best Mid-length Contemporary Romance from the Romance Writers of America. In my acceptance speech, I thanked RWA for creating an award recognizing Vivian Stephens and for encouraging members to work together toward meeting the challenges we faced to become a better organization for all writers and readers.

Tonight, I am telling RWA that I am declining my Vivian award and resigning from the organization.

I had decided to remain with RWA after its actions in 2019 because I didn’t want to cede the organization to the racists without a fight. I saw new board members stepping up to make much-needed changes toward inclusivity and equity, and I wanted to be a member who would help work toward those goals.

When I entered my book in the inaugural Vivian awards, I did it in the hope that the new judging rubric and DEI training would allow for historically excluded authors to be given the same consideration I’ve always been awarded as a cis straight white woman. I also hoped the new system would root out overtly racist or otherwise problematic books.

After discovering which book had won the inspirational category, I realized that my hopes were misplaced. RWA simply hasn’t done enough.

This afternoon’s statement from the RWA Board of Directors was the last straw. Its narrow definition of inspirational romance and discussion of characters seeking redemption from “crimes against humanity” prove the organization has not listened or learned from its current or former members.

I don’t only want to be an ally. I want to be a co-conspirator. And I cannot in good conscience accept a Vivian award or remain a member of RWA under these circumstances.

The following day, August 3, the RWA Board announced that after an emergency meeting they had rescinded the Vivian awarded to At Love’s Command:

…RWA is in full support of First Amendment rights; however, as an organization that continually strives to improve our support of marginalized authors, we cannot in good conscience uphold the decision of the judges in voting to celebrate a book that depicts the inhumane treatment of indigenous people and romanticizes real world tragedies that still affect people to this day….

The media by then were already reporting the story. The Washington Post article “After award win, Christian romance novel draws criticism for ‘romanticized genocide’ of Native Americans” begins:

Christian romance novels are generally known for their more “wholesome” take on the genre.

But this year’s winner of the Romance Writers of America’s Vivian Award for best romance with religious or spiritual elements has still managed to stir controversy.

The book — “At Love’s Command” by Karen Witemeyer — opens with a depiction of the Wounded Knee Massacre that some readers and authors have criticized as romanticizing the killing of Native Americans….

BookRiot’s Sarah Nicolas, in “Romance Writers of America Awards Book with Genocidal ‘Hero’”, describes the opening of the book in some detail, and quotes a tweet complaining about this particular book at the time the finalists were announced.

And several articles, including The Mary Sue’s “Romance Writers of America Awards Book Downplaying Genocide”, say the situation reminds them of the 2014 controversy when RWA’s RITA Awards shortlisted a book in the “inspirational” category about a Jewish woman who falls in love with her Nazi Kommandant at a concentration camp and converts to Christianity.

Courtney Milan also has made extensive comments about the RWA leadership’s decision to rescind the award, and in her view, their failure to craft the new award’s rules to authorize some things they have done. Thread starts here. She asks such questions as:

The RWA, meanwhile, promises its Vivian Task Force, headed by RWA Director-at-Large Jackí Renee, will be reviewing the contest’s effectiveness and recommending ways “to improve the contest and identify and manage potentially harmful content at the earliest stages in the contest lifecycle.”

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert for the story.]

2021 Vivian Awards

The winners of the 2021 Vivian Awards, which succeed the Romance Writers of America’s retired RITA Awards, were announced July 31.

The winners of genre interest follow.

Speculative Romance – Long

Works in which fantasy worlds or paranormal or science fiction elements are an integral part of the plot that are 80,000 or more words in length.

  • A Stitch in Time by Kelley Armstrong

Speculative Romance – Mid

Works in which fantasy worlds or paranormal or science fiction elements are an integral part of the plot that are between 50,000 and 80,000 words in length.

  • Betwixt by Darynda Jones

In 2020, as the new board of Romance Writers of America was recovering from the backlash of mass resignations of officers and loss of members following their predecessors’ attempt to censure Courtney Milan, one measure taken to signal their changing vision for the problem-ridden organization was to remake RWA’s annual awards and name them after founder Vivian Stephens, an African-American woman.

#DisneyMustPay Task Force Updates

The #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force has reported its progress towards its goal that all WritersMustBePaid.org.

“Lee Goldberg, IAMTW, International Thriller Writers, and Mystery Writers of America bring valuable experience to the Disney Task Force,” said Mary Robinette Kowal, President, SFWA. “Their support demonstrates that writers stand with each other.” 

John Palisano, President, Horror Writers Association (HWA), said, “The HWA is proud to be part of the Disney Task Force alongside SFWA, RWA, MWA, and many other organizations focused on writers. We believe writers must be paid and should not have to jump through hoops for that to happen. We’re hoping Disney will come to the table and cooperate with author organizations that are providing support to authors and agents so that there is a clear path going forward. We are all wishing for a resolution that will continue the great creative relationships that have been built over many decades.”

“Since we launched the Task Force, progress has been made; we are pleased that a few writers have been paid,” said Kowal. “However, we do notice the difference in how the lower profile writers are being treated. We should not still be having the discussion about honoring their contracts.”

Fans, fellow writers, and the creative community have taken to social media to support the authors being helped by the #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force. Because of their passion, the message is being delivered. 

For writers to be paid, people need to continue to buy their books and watch their movies and programs. The Task Force strongly feels that a boycott will only hurt writers. 

There are ways fans and supporters can help.

  • Do not boycott, as this will disproportionately affect those authors who are being paid. 
  • Use #DisneyMustPay on social media. Help is needed to bring the task force’s five action items to the attention of Disney’s decision-makers.
  • Visit WritersMustBePaid.org, a new website set up by our new task force, and share it.
  • Do purchase the works of affected authors for which they are receiving royalties.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) formed the #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force, which now includes the Authors GuildHorror Writers Association, International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW), International Thriller WritersMystery Writers of America National Writers UnionNovelists, Inc., Romance Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime to identify and guide authors who might be owed money. Disney is refusing to cooperate with the task force in identifying affected authors. 

The #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force is making sure writers’ working conditions are fair and safe, but individual negotiations are, rightly, between the authors, their agents, and the rights holder. The Disney Task Force is working to address structural and systemic concerns. 

Additional updates and information will be available at www.writersmustbepaid.org.

[Based on a press release.]

Romance Writers of America Announce Inaugural Vivian Award Finalists

The finalists for the 2021 Vivian Awards, which succeed the Romance Writers of America’s retired RITA Awards, were announced April 14. It may not be a complete list yet, as the webpage said “we’re posting names here as they’re notified,” however no new names have been added to the genre categories in the past 24 hours and romance specialty blog Ruby Slippered Sisterhood has the same list at this hour. The nominees of genre interest follow. RWA’s list of all categories is here.

Speculative Romance – Long

Works in which fantasy worlds or paranormal or science fiction elements are an integral part of the plot that are 80,000 or more words in length.

  • Curse of Seduction by Claire Robertson
  • Echoes of the Runes by Christina Courtenay
  • A Stitch in Time by Kelley Armstrong
  • Written in Water by Elizabeth Schechter

Speculative Romance – Mid

Works in which fantasy worlds or paranormal or science fiction elements are an integral part of the plot that are between 50,000 and 80,000 words in length.

  • Betwixt by Darynda Jones

Speculative Romance – Short

Works in which fantasy worlds or paranormal or science fiction elements are an integral part of the plot that are between 20,000 and 50,000 words in length.

  • No finalists named yet

In 2020, as the new board of Romance Writers of America was recovering from the backlash of mass resignations of officers and loss of members following their predecessors’ attempt to censure Courtney Milan, one measure taken to signal their changing vision for the problem-ridden organization was to remake RWA’s annual awards and name them after founder Vivian Stephens, an African-American woman.

In a statement last year, “Introducing The Vivian, a New Award for a New Era”, they said —

The RWA Board of Directors is thrilled to announce the introduction of a brand-new award, The Vivian, named after RWA founder Vivian Stephens, whose trailblazing efforts created a more inclusive publishing landscape and helped bring romance novels to the masses.

…In support of The Vivian, and guided by the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access, the contest task force has been hard at work developing a contest that aligns with the Board’s vision for RWA 2.0 and that is designed to fulfill the following mission:

The Vivian recognizes excellence in romance writing and showcases author talent and creativity. We celebrate the power of the romance genre with its central message of hope–because happily ever afters are for everyone….

Audiblegate Update: Policy Change Does Not Satisfy Authors Guild

Audible has deflected criticism of their returns policy by curtailing the time when a return would be charged against a writer’s royalties from a year to seven days. However, the authors who initially raised the issue question what difference that will make.

As File 770 reported in November (see “How Audible’s Returns Policy Exploits Writers”), Audible, the audiobook publisher/distributor, stands accused of attracting readers to pay its monthly membership premium by encouraging customers to exchange a book they’re done with for another they want to listen to – becoming in effect a rental library. By treating the first sale as a return, Audible deprives the author of what they should have earned on a work that was bought and enjoyed.

Amazon’s company ACX is a self-serve audiobook production platform, and Audible is its audiobook sales outlet. The adjustment to the returns policy was announced in “A Note from ACX” at the Audiobook Creation Exchange Blog (November 24):

…The intent of this program is to allow listeners to discover their favorite voice, author, or story in audio. In instances where we determine the benefit is being overused, Audible can and does limit the number of exchanges and refunds allowed by a member. But as designed, this customer benefit allows active Audible members in good standing to take a chance on new content, and suspicious activity is extremely rare.

We hope this helps convey perspective to our valued writers and ACX partners as to the impact of our current returns policies. However, in recognition of these concerns, moving forward and effective as of January 1, 2021, Audible will pay royalties for any title returned more than 7 days following purchase. 

Susan May, one of the leaders in bringing these issues to public attention, told The Alliance of Independent Authors why she is not satisfied:

“In offering authors the burden of bearing the cost of a return up to seven days of purchase, and Audible then assuming that cost for the balance of the 365 days of the ‘Easy Exchange’ [membership] benefit, we still have no idea of the value of this concession. It’s our belief that most customers would return a book in the first seven days after listening, and then a smaller percentage will return thereafter. This is a reusable credit as we’ve seen, and so we may still be enduring substantial losses.

“Audible has no mechanism in place that we have found through multiple tests which prevents overuse of this ‘Easy Exchange’ program. They’ve also given no indication that they do in fact prevent someone from returning a book once a majority of it has been consumed, or limit the exchanges and refunds allowed by members.

“Therefore, this begs the question: Why won’t Audible/ACX supply authors and publishers with their returns data in a timely and open fashion?”

May also realizes that Audible will not really be out of pocket by paying two authors a royalty on the expenditure of one subscriber credit. The company will be diluting the royalties on returns beyond the seven-day widow as a function of increasing the number of sales among which Audible divides the authors’ share of monthly subscription income. May said on her own blog enty, “Audiblegate 2: The Emperor’s New Clothes Policy, Pot Theory, Unicorns & Pirates”:

…Under the new returns policy, the Emperor’s New Clothes Policy, a subscriber can still “exchange” an audiobook in the exact same way, up to 365 days later. The only difference is that if a user exchanges a book after 7 days, both Author #1 AND Author #2 will receive the royalty for their sale.

Ooh, that seems good, and even if most of them are returned in the first seven days, that’s still something, right?

Well, no, because these returns after seven days are still potentially deducted from the exact same pot of money we all share. It’s still lost to authors and not being worn by the oh, so, magnanimous Audible, the party with the overly large share of the profit split.

Meanwhile, The Authors Guild’s call for writers to “Sign Our Letter and Tell Audible to Stop Charging Authors for Returns” has gathered over 12,000 signatures. The Guild likewise says that Audible’s policy change does not go far enough:

…The Authors Guild appreciates that Audible has acknowledged the concerns raised by authors and has shown a willingness to make changes to its policy so that authors lose their royalties only if an audiobook is returned within seven days of purchase rather than the current 365, but their proposal does not go far enough. For high volume audiobook listeners, a seven-day period is more than enough to listen to a whole audiobook, and it is not fair to deduct the author’s royalty for books that have been or could have been listened to. This practice is unparalleled in digital media retail. We think that royalties should only be deducted in cases of accidental purchase and within a much shorter period of time, such as 48 hours, and only if the audiobook hasn’t been listened to substantially. We have communicated this to Audible. We have also asked Audible for transparency in their reporting so that authors can see the royalty deductions from their accounts; currently authors only see the net amounts  – the number of books sold minus returns.

Many other author organizations have now joined the protest reports Publishing Perspectives.

  • The Dramatists’ Guild
  • Novelists Inc.
  • The UK-based international Alliance of Independent Authors
  • The Writers’ Union of Canada
  • The Irish Writers Union
  • The Australian Society of Authors
  • The Society of Authors in the United Kingdom
  • The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America;
  • The Romance Writers of America
  • Sisters in Crime
  • The Mystery Writers of America
  • Equity UK

May encourages writers to join the Facebook group she helped start where they can keep informed and work together to get Audible to treat them fairly.

Pixel Scroll 8/23/20 Scrolling In The Pixel Rain

(1) COLUMBUS 2020 NASFIC. The latest North American Science Fiction Convention ended today. NASFiC Newsletter is a place where you’ll find preserved such vital information as —

NASFiC by the Numbers

As of 11:30 pm on Saturday there were 1092 people registered through the convention website and 716 people on Discord.

Souvenir Book

We all know no one reads the souvenir book until they’re home, long after the con has ended. But since you’re ALREADY home, you can read it now! Read about our awesome Guests of Honor! Check out the convenient lists of artists and dealers, in case you want to follow up on something you saw at the con. Click to download your copy!

Out of context quotes

“Our asses are full of miracles”

“The attendees… or my minions. Whichever is more convenient”

“I just want to give all of you a big hug with my sand snork”

I can also recommend the NASFiC History section because some of it is written by yours truly. It begins with the site selection vote held in 1973 for the original NASFiC of 1975:

…Each bid was led by a co-chair of L.A.Con I, the just-completed Worldcon, Charles Crayne or Bruce Pelz.

…Crayne and Pelz reacted to TorCon 2’s [decision] simply by running their own site selection process at the con. I got my first bidding experience while helping Bruce Pelz and Milt Stevens haul cases of beer from a package store to their bid party in Toronto’s Royal York Hotel. “Strong backs, weak minds,” I think Bruce said. When the ballots were counted, we (Bruce and Milt may be thinking, “What do you mean, we?”) lost to Chuck Crayne’s bid.

(2) OKORAFOR Q&A. NPR’s Weekend Edition spoke with Nnedi Okorafor about her new book: “A Boy Avenges His Murdered Father, With The Help Of A Magical ‘Ikenga'”.

On whether the themes in the book were inspired by present-day corruption

I started writing this in 2009. … What we’re dealing with now in the United States, it’s not something that just happened. It’s been been going, and going, and going, and if we’re talking about Nigeria, Nigeria has been battling corruption for a very long time as well. … I couldn’t say that it was inspired by current events, but its connection to current events is certainly no accident.

On having a more global perspective

It was like I grew up hybrid — this hybrid culture where … I’m learning about two different histories and blending them together. And so when I sat down to write, that’s what naturally came forth. … When it comes to looking at things historically, I look at it in a very broad, global way. Everything that happens, you know, I’m making connections not just from one country, but from two countries.

(3) CLARION WEST. The Clarion West Write-a-Thon reached new heights:

…We set a new record as 542 individual writers participated, with nearly 250 active regulars bonding and sharing writing on our Slack channel. We are so proud and grateful!

In all, we raised over $26,000, surpassing our goal and ensuring we can continue to bring the Clarion West resources and experience to the world. Going online with so many classes, most of them free, was a huge investment. We can say without doubt that this investment has paid off!

(4) BUG NIGHT. Clarion West will be hosting a free online event with Seanan McGuire and an entomologist. Register at the link.

Saturday, Sept 12, 6:00 PM Pacific

Insects, Arachnids, and Fellow Travelers, a.k.a “Bug Night”

Join us for a conversation with award-winning author Seanan McGuire and entomologist Kristie Reddick to discuss how science fiction and fantasy use bugs as proxies for aliens, societies, fears, and hopes. From Alien to Ant Man, Starship Troopers to James and the Giant Peach, what do all these stories have to tell us about being human?

Register here. This event is free to view online. Purchase a ticket to join the live Q&A after the event. Limited higher-tier tickets also get you books and other goodies for supporting Clarion West!

(5) RECONVENE AFTER ACTION REPORT. Mlex tells what it was like to virtually attend “reCONvene 2020”, and has quotes from some of the panels.

…reCONvene has now assembled and accomplished a hybrid version of the other cons I attended. And they did it really well!

The format of reCONvene was to set up a series of simultaneous program items, so that you could only attend one out of several that were happening during any given hour. This is the typical parallel programming style of most cons, so it had a natural feel to it. Since the con was a one-day event, this meant that between the hours of 11am to 5pm, you could attend six full panels sessions, at most. Or, if you are the sort to go in and out of rooms during a con, you could pop around and get a flavor for the multiple things going on.

Glimpsing Climate Recovery

Vincent Dougherty (moderator)
Vandhana Singh

Vandhana Singh started off the session by noting that the looming threat of climate change is not being met with the serious measures it requires. On the contrary, the collective juggernaut of humankind is colliding with it head on.

VandhanaIt’s a so called ‘normal’ way of behavior that brought us here. People are so invested in what feels normal for them, their denial kicks in, and they want to do the same things they have always done in the same way. I really didn’t realize the depth to which the current paradigm has a hold on our imaginations. And you can also see the predicted rise of right-wing groups actually taking place before our very eyes.

VinceIn any complex system you not only get the linear effect, but you get all sorts of unexpected outcomes that radiate out in different directions. There’s an established body of climate fiction that deals with these actually. There were archetypes of them even before the 20th century. And each of these stories attempts to deal with the inexplicable change that suddenly occurs. These could be brought on by wars, pandemics, or even the use of agriculture. Historically all of these, and many other factors, have been proven to be causes of total systemic changes. So, what do you think you are going to change in your fiction writing due to this situation that we find ourselves in?

(6) JUDGE EAST OF THE PECOS. Adam Roberts tells The Guardian’s readers about a book that pleased him: “Mordew by Alex Pheby review – an extravagant, unnerving fantasy”.

…I’m one of the judges for the 2020 World Fantasy award and over the last few months I’ve read literally hundreds of fantasy titles, some good, some bad, most mediocre. I might easily have groaned at yet another entry into this overcrowded mode. But Mordew is a darkly brilliant novel, extraordinary, absorbing and dream-haunting. That it succeeds as well as it does speaks to Pheby’s determination not to passively inhabit his Gormenghastly idiom but instead to lead it to its most extreme iteration, to force inventiveness and grotesqueness into every crevice of his work. It seems that one way to take an apparently exhausted idiom and make it new is just to push through, with enough imaginative energy to refresh the tired old tropes. Mordew is so crammed with grotesque inventiveness that it overwhelms the reader’s resistance.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 23, 1965 Dr. Who And The Daleks starring Peter Cushing premiered in the U.K. Note that  it was not Who canon as, though it used The Daleks serial script by Terry Nation from the series as its basis, The Doctor here is not part of the regenerations accepted by the BBC. Roberta Tovey as Susan and Jennie Linden as Barbara are the other principal cast. It was directed by Gordon Flemyng, and produced by Milton Subotsky and Max J. Rosenberg from a screenplay by Subotsky. Neither Clute nor anyone else who’s reviewed cared for it or its sequel. A Guardian reviewer several years back said that, “people don’t talk about Dr Who and the Daleks any more.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently have the film at a 41% rating. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 23, 1863 – Amélie Rives, Princess Troubetzkoy.  A score of novels (we may claim The Ghost Garden), shorter stories, paintings, plays; three poems in Fantasy & Terror 13 (ed. J.A. Salmonson; published posthumously).  Introduced to Prince Pierre Troubetzkoy (1864-1936) by Oscar Wilde.  Matter by and about her and the Prince in U. Virginia Lib’y Special Collections.  (Died 1945) [JH]
  • Born August 23, 1898 – George Papashvily.  Author, sculptor, inventor.  Fought in Georgian Menshevik Army against Soviet Russians, immigrated here.  Memoir Anything Can Happen (with wife Helen) sold 1.5 million copies, made a motion picture (G. Seaton dir. 1952); five more books.  We may claim “Davit” and “The Khevsouri and the Eshmakie”.  (Died 1978) [JH]
  • Born August 23, 1924 – Lloyd Birmingham.  A score of covers, thirty interiors.  Here is the Nov 61 Fantastic.  Here is the Feb 62 Analog.  Here is the Apr 62 Amazing and here is the Oct 63.  Here is Great SF 9.  Also comics, freelance illustration.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born August 23, 1927 Peter Wyngarde. Not one who was a lead actor in any genre series save Department S where he was Jason King but interesting none-the-less. For instance, he shows up in the two Sherlock Holmes series, one with Peter Cushing and one with Jeremy Brett. He’s in a series of Doctor Who with the Fifth Doctor and he faces off against the classic Avengers pairing of Steed and Peel. He shows up as Number Two in The Prisoner as well. (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born August 23, 1929 Vera Miles, 90. Lila Crane in Psycho which she reprised in Psycho II. On a much more family friendly note, she’s Silly Hardy in Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle, the very last of the twelve Tarzan pictures released by RKO. She has done one-offs on Buck Rogers in Twentieth CenturyFantasy IslandThe Twilight ZoneAlfred Hitchcock PresentsI Spy and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (CE)
  • Born August 23, 1931 Barbara Eden, 89. Jeannie on I Dream of Jeannie. Her first genre role however was on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Lt. Cathy Connors, though she’d show up a few years later as Greta Heinrich on The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. Some thirty-five years after I Dream of Jeannie went off the air, she had a recurring role as Aunt Irma on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. (CE) 
  • Born August 23, 1944 Karl Alexander. Author of Time after Time which when filmed was directed and written by Nicholas Meyer. Cast includes Malcolm McDowell, Mary Steenburgen and David Warner. (A thirteen-episode series would happen in 2017.) His sequel of Jaclyn the Ripper is not as well known, nor is his Time-Crossed Lovers novel. (Died 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born August 23, 1947 – Marva Dasef, 73.  Technical writer who turned to fiction.  Three novels, twenty shorter stories for us; various others.  Ranked The Martian above Dhalgren.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 23, 1961 Alexandre Desplat, 59. French film composer who won an Academy Award for The Shape of Water. He also composed the music for genre films including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Golden CompassFantastic Mr. FoxHarry Potter and the Deathly HallowsRise of the Guardians, and Isle of Dogs. (CE)
  • Born August 23, 1969 – Benjamin Rosenbaum, 51.  One novel, five dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors.  Translated into Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Urdu.  Software developer for Nat’l Science Foundation, for Washington, D.C., city government; built on-line game Sanctum.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 23, 1983 – Winston Blake Wheeler Ward, 37.  Founded Infinite Worlds magazine with a Kickstarter raising $3,500 from a hundred people (target $1,500) in Apr 19; five issues so far.  Founder & curator of on-line monthly flash-fiction challenge the Five Hundred.  Loves woodworking and dogs.  [JH]
  • Born August 23, 1990 Jessica Lee Keller, 30. Lauren, Elise’s Best Friend, in The Adjustment Bureau from Philip K. Dick’s “Adjustment Team” story. She also shows up in LuciferTerror Birds and 12-24 where IMDB describes her as the One Tit Zombie. (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) NOW AT BAT. Warner Bros. dropped a trailer during the DC Fandome for The Batman with Robert Pattinson.

(11) FANTASTICON ONLINE IN SEPTEMBER. Denmark’s “Fantasticon 2020 becomes virtual”.

This year’s Fantasticon will not be “The Weird Fantasticon” at our usual venue, but will be a virtual convention, like most other conventions during the Covid-19 pandemic. The dates will be 5-6 September 2020.

This post has more specifics: “The virtual Fantasticon 2020 – update”

Our plans for Fantasticon 2020 now include the following:

A virtual onetrack program on Zoom Saturday and Sunday 5-6 September from 10 Am to 4 PM.

A Discord server where you can meet the other fans and get information about the convention. Opens 9:30 AM on September 5th and closes 4:30 PM on September 6th.

Please sign up by buying a (free) ticket on Billetfix, https://billetfix.dk/da/e/virtual-fantasticon-2020/ You will get links to Zoom and the Discord server via the email you give us there.

The theme of Fantasticon will be disasters, but not a word about the covid-19 pandemic (we get plenty of info on that particular disaster from other sources). But as usual, not everthing will be about the theme.

Some of the program will be in English, some of it in Danish.

(12) FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE. Texas Monthly caught up with the founder of Romance Writers of America: “Vivian Stephens Helped Turn Romance Writing Into a Billion-Dollar Industry. Then She Got Pushed Out.”

…Stephens is 87 now, under self-imposed lockdown in one of those amenity-rich mid-rise apartment complexes that have sprouted all over Houston, this one just north of Hermann Park, in the Binz area. Her one-bedroom unit is cluttered with papers and stacks of books on nearly every surface. There are many romance novels, yes, as well as more-cerebral tomes such as A Nervous Splendor, a history of Vienna in the late 1880s. Family photographs, some dating back almost to that time, populate a small table in a living room corner….

…  It has long been an open secret—certainly among women of color—that romance publishing has a race problem. A 2014 survey of four thousand romance writers conducted by Larson revealed that authors of color earned about 60 percent less than white writers. In 2019, research conducted by the Ripped Bodice, in Los Angeles, one of the few bookstores in America to sell romance exclusively, revealed that only 8 percent of leading romance publishers had released novels by women of color. And, not incidentally or coincidentally, the membership of the RWA is 86 percent white, according to the latest data. No Black writer had won a RITA—formerly the RWA’s highest honor—until 2019, and not for want of trying….

(13) SAFETY FIRST. Ron Fein delivers the “Arkham Board Of Health Feedback On Miskatonic University’s Draft Plan For A Safe Campus Reopening” at McSweeneys.

Food services

We agree that students need not wear masks during meals. However, please revise the final plan to say “while eating,” rather than “while slobbering and ravening with delight.”

(14) ANOTHER PSA. Even CNN’s headline writer is exasperated: “Oh, great: NASA says an asteroid is headed our way right before Election Day”.

Well, 2020 keeps getting better all the time.

Amid a pandemiccivil unrest and a divisive US election season, we now have an asteroid zooming toward us.

On the day before the presidential vote, no less.

Yep. The celestial object known as 2018VP1 is projected to come close to Earth on November 2, according to the Center for Near Earth Objects Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It was first identified at Palomar Observatory in California in 2018.

“Asteroid 2018VP1 is very small, approximately 6.5 feet, and poses no threat to Earth. If it were to enter our planet’s atmosphere, it would disintegrate due to its extremely small size,” NASA said in a statement. “NASA has been directed by Congress to discover 90% of the near-Earth asteroids larger than 140 meters (459 feet) in size and reports on asteroids of any size.”

(15) SHOOTS AND LEAVES. CNN issues an invitation to “Meet the ‘SlothBot,’ the robot taking its sweet time to monitor our climate”.

…”I could not understand how these slow, tasty animals that are just sitting there waiting to be eaten by a jaguar could survive,” Egerstedt said. “So I started reading about sloths and I got really excited about embracing slowness in robotics. And when you’re measuring things that are evolving over weeks and months, you don’t have to be fast — it’s OK to be slow, as long as you’re out there and getting the job done.”

With this in mind, Egerstedt and several students in his lab came up with the idea to design a robot that could do just that — reach places that humans and most high-powered robots can’t, like a tree canopy, and stay there to monitor environmental changes over time.

To do this, the SlothBot needed to be extremely energy efficient — sloth-like, if you will — to conserve power and continue sampling the air, without having to be lowered down from the trees and recharged….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In 2016, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum made it possible to “Explore the Museum in Klingon”. Here’s a video based on the outtakes.

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is one of the galaxy’s most popular tourist destinations, and celebrates infinite diversity in infinite combinations among its visitors. Although we are fairly certain there are no longer undercover Klingon agents on staff, we welcome citizens of the planet Kronos to explore the history of flight on Earth alongside our terrestrial visitors.

To help increase Klingon visitorship, we turned to Earth’s premier extraterrestrial linguist and former Smithsonian post-doctoral fellow, Marc Okrand. Okrand developed the Klingon and Vulcan languages for the Star Trek franchise, and was kind enough to translate and record a highlights tour of the Museum, discussing your favorite artifacts in Klingon.

The tour, which can be enjoyed from anywhere on or off the planet, includes six of the Museum’s most iconic artifacts, some of which required creative interpretation for our interstellar audiences. The Spirit of St. Louis became St. Louis toDuj (Mettle of St. Louis), while John Glenn’s Mercury spacecraft Friendship 7 became “Mercury jup ghom Soch” (“Group of Friends 7”), because there is no Klingonese word for “friendship.”… 

[Thanks to John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Michael J. Walsh, John King Tarpinian, Mlex, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title cedit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 6/24/20 Pretty Pixels In The File, They Twinkle On The Screen, And Then Get Refreshed So That New Ones Are Seen

(1) JUMP ON THE TRUCK. In the Washington Post, Robert Zubrin and Homer Hickam have an opinion piece where they say that SpaceX Dragon’s success should make the preferred launch vehicle for a return to the Moon and NASA should shelve the Orion rocket as too unwieldy. “Send the SpaceX Dragon to the moon”.

In March 2019, Vice President Pence challenged NASA to land astronauts on the moon by 2024 “by any means necessary.” This was a potential breakthrough, because after nearly 50 years of drift, the White House was finally giving NASA’s human spaceflight program a concrete goal with a clear timeline and forceful support — a necessity for any progress and the restoration of the agency’s can-do spirit. The purpose for the mission itself is a blend of economic, scientific and world leadership goals designed to make the investment worthwhile to all Americans.

NASA’s response to Pence’s challenge was to proceed with what it already had in the pipeline: the Orion crewed spacecraft and the massive shuttle-derived Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift expendable booster rocket. SLS has been in slow-walk development since 2006, with more than $18 billion spent, but it is still years away from launch. Considering this track record, we unhappily doubt the SLS/Orion combination will meet the vice president’s challenge.

But now we have an alternative. The contract that resulted in the Dragon crewed spacecraft was issued by NASA in 2014. Six years and $3 billion later, it has flown astronauts into orbit. What SpaceX did was show that a well-led entrepreneurial team can achieve results that were previously thought to require the efforts of superpowers, and in a small fraction of the time and cost, and even — as demonstrated by its reusable Falcon launch vehicles — do things deemed impossible altogether. This is a revolution….

(2) RWA. The Romance Writers of America will hold a virtual RWA Conference from August 28-30. A full list of the RWA 2020 Conference Scholarships are at the link. Some new ones have been added.

RWA also has clarified a recent announcement about Dreamspinner Press to say they are available to advocate for non-members, too. Thread starts here.

(3) FROM THE CANOE. Elizabeth Bear posted “an open letter to my friends and acquaintances in the publishing community who have been outed as serial harassers, and to the ones who still think they’re getting away with something.”

It begins:

Hey there. I know you’re having a rough time right now, and I’m sorry to say you earned it. I wish I had known about your behavior sooner; I wish I had known that you weren’t just making rank jokes among friends, as we all do once in a while, but engaged in serious abuses of your power, engaged in harming people.

I am, needless to say, very very disappointed in you.

I’m saddened for the people you have hurt, and I’m really disappointed that you have turned out not to be the person I thought you were. Even more, I’m wondering if you even have the self-awareness to realize how much you have harmed not just the people you harassed or gaslit or backstabbed, but also the communities you were a part of. How much you have damaged the people who care about you and who have tried to be your friends, as well….

(4) STOKERCON UK. The StokerCon UK committee has announced a new set of dates for the Horror Writers Association event which has been chased around the calendar by the coronavirus. The post is here.

…Secondly, we are grateful to the majority of you who, since our previous announcement, have allowed us to get on with trying to save the convention—or at least a version of it—by rescheduling it.

To that end, we are pleased to let you know that, at the moment, we have agreed tentative dates for the event with the two convention hotels of 28-31 January 2021. With events and advice changing so quickly, the hotels have agreed to follow UK Government advice and are prepared to reassess or postpone the event once again nearer the time, depending on the spread and hopeful containment of the virus.

(5) YOU ARE HERE. Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes about this moment with empathy and wisdom: “Business Musings: Shock, Survival, and Forgiveness”.

… We now know where we are. We’re in that prolonged change. It’s a transition, and we’ve finally hit it. All of 2020 will be a year of half-measures, making do, and getting through.

Frankly, I find knowing where we are calming. I now know how to proceed day to day. I don’t like it, but I don’t have to like it.

I, you, all of us just have to survive it.

The knowledge of where we’re at, though, took me out of survival mode. I’m no longer obsessively reading the news every day, trying to figure out where we are. I’m donning my mask when I go out. I make that daily calculation—is it worth the risk to my health (and Dean’s health) to do whatever it is I am planning to do?

I can calculate risk now. And, more importantly, Dean and I are agreed. We consult if we’re going to do something outside of our usual schedule, based on the level of risk.

We are more or less staying home, but we did anyway, since we work here.  That sense of ease, that feeling of no longer being on the knife’s edge, has made it easier to focus, although not always easier to work.

I’m one of the few people I know who has made the mental transition out of survival mode. (If one of us gets sick, I know I’ll head right back into it.) Now that I know how we’re going to be living day to day, I’m willing to live day to day. I don’t need to be ever vigilante for another tow truck, coming at us out of the dark.

Because I’ve made this transition, I can see other folks who haven’t. In my various social media feeds, I’m watching writers talk about their process or their lack of one. Writers, discussing how their work has changed or just plain stopped. Writers, who can’t face any of their usual projects, and who are feeling lost and don’t exactly know why.

Everyone knows the changes in their writing habits come from the pandemic, but most don’t understand what to do. And many people are worried that the changes to their writing methods are permanent.

Are those changes permanent? It depends on the change. They seem to fall into two categories…

… We are in a new place. Like any new place, it will take time to learn all its ins and outs. We have to explore it and understand it—and survive the transition into it.

If you’re dealing with actual life and death issues, from someone being very ill in your life to a major loss of income or career, then give yourself time to recover. Take the pressure off your writing. There’s enough pressure in your life….

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY,

  • June 24, 1982 Blade Runner premiered. It was directed by Ridley Scott, and was written by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples. It starred Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Edward James Olmos and Sean Young. It was based very loosely on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It would win the Best Dramatic Presentation at ConStellation, beating out The Wrath of KhanE.T.The Dark Crystal and The Road Warrior. Critics were puzzled by it and t generated little street buzz nearly thirty years ago. It would vastly raise its stature over the years, now being considered one of the Best SF works ever done. It’s worth Warner Bros. released The Final Cut, a 25th-anniversary digitally remastered version; this is the only version over which Scott retained full artistic control.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 24, 1842 – Ambrose Bierce.  Four hundred short pieces, sixty poems.  A pioneer in realistic fiction; a great fantasist; a biting satirist.  When William Dean Howells said AB was among our three greatest writers, AB said “I am sure Mr. Howells is the other two.”  Translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Swedish.  (Died 1914, maybe) [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1915 – Sir Frederick Hoyle.  Coined the expression “Big Bang”, rejected the theory.  Radar research in World War II with more personnel than the Manhattan Project. Mayhew Prize, Balzan Prize, Crafoord Prize.  Founded the Cambridge Institute of Astronomy and resigned from it.  A dozen SF novels, two dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors; translated into Danish, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Japanese, Portuguese, Romanian, Serbian,  Spanish, Swedish.  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1937 – Charles Brown.  Founded Locus (with Ed Meskys and Dave Vanderwerf) as a fanzine; it grew, changed, and “semiprozine” was invented to describe it; 29 Hugos by the time of his death.  You could disagree with him; on panels with him I opposed his “mainstream literature is about the past, science fiction is about the present, nobody can write about the future”; no one has outdone him.  Writers & Illustrators of the Future Award for lifetime achievement.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1947 Peter Weller, 73. Yes it’s his Birthday today too. Robocop obviously with my favorite scene being him pulling out and smashing Cain’s brain, but let’s see what else he’s done. Well there’s The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, a film I adore. And then there’s Leviathan which you I’m guessing a lot of you never heard of. Is it of the Naked Lunch genre? Well, Screamers based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “Second Variety” certainly is. Even if the reviews sucked.  And Star Trek Into Darkness certainlyqualifies. Hey he showed up in Star Trek: Enterprise! (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1948 – Kris Neri, age 72.Two novels for us; four more, sixty shorter stories.  After living in San Francisco, and Southern California, moved to Sedona (Arizona); now at home in Silver City (New Mexico).  Teaches writing through the U. Cal. L.A. Extension School.  Says her Samantha Brennan and Annabelle Haggerty magical mysteries feature “a questionable psychic who teams up with a modern goddess/FBI agent”.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1950 Mercedes Lackey, 70. There’s a line on the Wiki page that says she writes nearly six books a year. Impressive. She’s certainly got a lot of really good series out there including the vast number that are set in the Valdemar universe. I like her Bedlam’s Bard series better. She wrote the first few in this series with Ellen Gunn and the latter in the series with Rosemary Edghill. The SERRAted Edge series, Elves with race cars, is kinda fun too. Larry Dixon, her husband, and Mark Shepherd were co-writers of these. Lackey and Dixon are GoHs of this year’s Worldcon, CoNZealand. (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1950 Nancy Allen, 70. Officer Anne Lewis in the Robocop franchise. (I like all three films.) Her first genre role was not in Carrie as Chris Hargensen, but in a best forgotten a film year earlier (Forced Entry) as a unnamed hitchhiker. She shows up in fan favorite The Philadelphia Experiment as Allison Hayes and I see her in Poltergeist III as Patricia Wilson-Gardner (seriously — a third film in this franchise?). She’s in the direct-to-video Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return as Rachel Colby. (Oh, that sounds awful.) And she was in an Outer Limits episode, “Valerie 23”, as Rachel Rose. (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1961 Iain Glen, 59. Scots actor who played as Ser Jorah Mormont in Game of Thrones, he’s also  well known for his roles as Dr. Alexander Isaacs/Tyrant in the Resident Evil franchise; and he played the role of Father Octavian, leader of a sect of clerics who were on a mission against the Weeping Angels in “The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone”, all Eleventh Doctor stories. (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1970 – Nicolas Fructus, age 50.  Recently, comics and storyboard art for animated films and video games.  Worked with Moebius, Philippe Druillet; founded Delcourt publishing house.  Here is a cover for Bifrost.  Here is one for Kij Johnson’s novella “The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe”.  Here is A Year in the Air.  [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1982 Lotte Verbeek, 38. You most likely know her as Ana Jarvis, the wife of Edwin Jarvis, who befriends Carter on Agent Carter. She got interesting genre history including being Geillis Duncan on the Outlander series, Helena in The Last Witch Hunter, Aisha in the dystopian political thriller Division 19 film and a deliberately undefined role in the now-concluded cross-world Counterpart series. (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1988 – Kasey Lansdale, age 32. Country music singer-songwriter who has been writing in our field with her father Joe Lansdale; six short stories with him, two alone; edited two anthologies, recently Impossible Monsters.  “Tremble” with JL was in Pop the Clutch from Dark Moon last year.   Website here.  [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1994 Nicole Muñoz, 26. You’ll perhaps best remember her for role as Christie Tarr (née McCawley) in the Defiance series. Her first role was playing a Little Girl in Fantastic Four. Likewise she was A Kid with Braces in The Last Mimzy, and yes, Another Girl, in Hardwired. The latter was written by Michael Hurst, and has apparently nothing to with the Walter Jon Williams novel of the same same. (CE) 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) STICK WITH IT. USPS announced “New Stamps Celebrating Bugs Bunny’s 80th Birthday Coming Soon to a Post Office Near You”.

The U.S. Postal Service will issue commemorative Forever stamps celebrating Bugs Bunny’s 80th birthday. The Postal Service and Warner Bros. Consumer Products are excited to dedicate these stamps at a virtual ceremony on July 27, the 80th anniversary of Bugs Bunny’s official screen debut.

Bugs has always been known for his impeccable impersonations and his masterful masquerades, so the soon-to-be-revealed 10 designs on this pane of 20 stamps each showcase a costumed Bugs Bunny in some of his most memorable getups.

(10) A BIG IDEA. Rosamund Lannin is “Searching for Body Positivity in Fantasy” at Tor.com.

I remember the first time I encountered an attractive fat woman in a fantasy novel. My heart flipped a little as I read about a woman was for-real fat. She wasn’t your usual fictional overweight woman, either: there was no zaftig or curvy or voluptuous to be found near the Scientist’s Daughter in Haruki Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. But she was definitely attractive. The narrator describes her as follows:

“A white scarf swirled around the collar of her chic pink suit. From the fullness of her earlobes dangled square gold earrings, glinting with every step she took. Actually, she moved quite lightly for her weight. She may have strapped herself into a girdle or other paraphernalia for maximum visual effect, but that didn’t alter the fact that her wiggle was tight and cute. In fact, it turned me on. She was my kind of chubby.”

(11) THE NEXT SHIFT. At The Mary Sue, Cree Myles advises: “If You Really Want to Unlearn Racism, Read Black Sci-Fi Authors”.

… Society generally views the science fiction genre as one of leisure. You read it because you have time, not because you want to learn something. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. While all writers are charged with the task of creating a more empathetic society, science fiction writers have the additional burden of telling us what happens next.

Some of our best thinkers, and certainly our most comprehensive hopers, have been sci-fi writers. N.K. Jemisin has given us black female demigods who, despite their powers, still somehow suffer at the hands of an oppressive society. Octavia Butler has given us shapeshifters, time travelers, and voyagers who all had to react and survive under patriarchy and racism. Ursula K. Le Guin was creating entire non-binary societies … in the 1960s.

(12) IT’S IN THE OH! E. D. Ursula Vernon coins a word:

(13) BACK FROM THE FUTURE. “Segway: End of the road for the much-hyped two-wheeler”

Segway is ending production of its original two-wheeler, which was popular with city tour guides and some police forces – but not the public.

Launched in 2001, the much-hyped self-balancing vehicle promised to revolutionise personal transport.

The Segway, invented by US engineer Dean Kamen, debuted with much fanfare, but struggled to make a profit.

Accidents didn’t help with the Segway’s popularity, and the company was bought by Chinese rival Ninebot in 2015.

Made at a factory in New Hampshire, in the US, production of the Segway Personal Transporter will end on 15 July.

Announcing the news, Segway president Judy Cai said: “Within its first decade, the Segway PT became a staple in security and law enforcement, viewed as an effective and efficient personal vehicle.”

However, in the vehicle’s almost two decade-long history it has also been the subject of mockery and high-profile collisions as well as a tragic death.

(14) THE PASSENGER PIGEON OF VIDEO STORES. Atlas Obscura leads readers to something that’s the last of its kind: “Bend Blockbuster Video”.

In early summer of 2018, there were two Blockbusters left in Alaska and one in Oregon. The Alaska stores finally closed that summer, leaving the Bend store as the last one standing. National media attention soon followed and the Bend Blockbuster became a tourist site as well. And after the last Blockbuster Video in Australia closed in 2019, the Bend store became the only one left in the world. 

[Thanks to Microtherion, JJ, John Hertz, Lise Andreasen, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 6/10/20 The Galileo Sevateem

(1) INCOME INEQUALITY. In “#PublishingPaidMe and a Day of Action Reveal an Industry Reckoning”, the New York Times does a roundup of Monday’s Twitter exchange, leading with a focus on Jesmyn Ward. Other authors quoted include N.K. Jemisin and John Scalzi.

…Hand-wringing over diversity is nothing new in publishing — its work force is more than three-quarters white, according to a survey released earlier this year by the children’s book publisher Lee & Low Books — but over the weekend, conversations that have been occurring for years took a turn into public protest.

Using a hashtag, #PublishingPaidMe, that quickly began trending on Twitter, authors shared their advances, which is the amount of money they receive for their books before any royalties, typically based on copies sold, start coming in. The young adult author L.L. McKinney, who is black, started the hashtag on Saturday, hoping to highlight the pay inequality between black and nonblack writers.

“These are conversations black authors have been having with each other and trying to get the industry engaged on for a long time,” she said. While she wasn’t surprised by the disparities that were revealed, she was hurt, she said, by “how deep it went.”

Jesmyn Ward, a critically acclaimed novelist, said on Twitter that she “fought and fought” for her first $100,000 advance, even after her book “Salvage the Bones,” for which she said she received around $20,000, won a National Book Award in 2011. After switching publishers, she was able to negotiate a higher advance for “Sing, Unburied, Sing” — for which she won a second National Book Award, in 2017 — but, she said, “it was still barely equal to some of my writer friends’ debut novel advances.”

…A Google spreadsheet that collected the advances of authors also went viral, amassing nearly 1,200 entries by midday Monday. Its contents were self-reported and could not be independently verified, but many entries were detailed with the genre of book, the race, gender and sexual orientation of the author, as well as what the authors were paid. Of the 122 writers who said they earned at least $100,000, 78 of them identified as white, seven as black and two said they were Latin American.

(2) TOP LGBT SF. Rocket Stack Rank has posted their annual list of “Outstanding LGBT Science Fiction & Fantasy short fiction from 2019”. These 30 stories are finalists for major SF/F awards, included in year’s best SF/F anthologies, and recommended by prolific reviewers. Here are some of their observations about the list.

(3) ROWLING CRITIC. At LitHub, “How JK Rowling Betrayed the World She Created. Gabrielle Bellot on Transphobia and Growing Up with the Harry Potter Universe”. One of many pieces responding to Rowling’s tweets of a few days ago.

Time and time again, I’ve become accustomed to having to defend my womanhood when public figures declare that transgender women are not “real” women. Sometimes, I want to quietly sit back, avoiding the stress of having yet another prolonged argument with people who will call me “sir” at best and a rapist who should be euthanized at worst—for all trans women, the argument goes, are just men who want to sneak into women’s locker rooms to do nefarious things. It’s emotionally and spiritually exhausting to debate your identity; sometimes, you just want to log off social media and take a walk or hug someone you love for support, curling up in your own small safe harbor, where, at least for a bit, no one is accusing you of being a freak, a pervert, an abomination who does not belong in the annals of this Earth….

(4) ROWLING REPLIES TO CRITICS. On her website today, “J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues” a 3,600-word explanation of her views that also includes a previously undisclosed personal history of sexual assault.

….But endlessly unpleasant as its constant targeting of me has been, I refuse to bow down to a movement that I believe is doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class and offering cover to predators like few before it. I stand alongside the brave women and men, gay, straight and trans, who’re standing up for freedom of speech and thought, and for the rights and safety of some of the most vulnerable in our society: young gay kids, fragile teenagers, and women who’re reliant on and wish to retain their single sex spaces. Polls show those women are in the vast majority, and exclude only those privileged or lucky enough never to have come up against male violence or sexual assault, and who’ve never troubled to educate themselves on how prevalent it is….

(5) DOOM PATROL TRAILER. HBO Max dropped a trailer for the second season.

The Doom Patrol isn’t done with the weird just yet! See what the team’s been up to in Season 2, starting with 3 new episodes on June 25.

(6) COLORADO CON CANCELLED. COSine, Colorado Springs’ annual convention, has joined the ranks of the postponed. What’s unusual is – this was a January 2021 event, and it’s being bumped to 2022.

Fortunately, all of our guests have agreed to come in 2022! You can read the official announcement here.

(7) THE GLUE THAT HOLDS IT ALL TOGETHER. Frank Catalano says “It’s weird to cross streams between education conferences and the Nebula Conference, but I did it. With a photo, in EdSurge.” — “Who’s Zoomin’ Who? Remote Education Conference Woes and Wows”. Frank’s wide-ranging review of virtual conference techniques includes these notes of praise for SFWA’s recent Nebula Conference.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America moved its annual Nebula Conference for professional writers in late May online. Yes, it had good moderators, snappy sessions and well-oiled combinations of online tools over its three days. But it also had something that helped replicate the physical experience.

In advance of the event, paid registrants received an unexpected package in the mail containing a four-page color schedule, a printed name badge and a short tumbler glass etched with the name of the event. To make those post-session Zoom happy hours more … happy.

Now that’s an organization looking to the future of virtual conferences.

(8) POD PERSON. Michael Dirda confesses: “All the books in my 300 boxes sparked joy. The lockdown made me rethink why I was keeping them” in the Washington Post. He really did end up giving some of the books away. A few.

… It was clear to my lightning brain — I’m not a Sherlockian for nothing — that I needed to free up space in the storage pod before I could put more boxes into it. There was, I deduced, just one way to accomplish this: I would have to start selling or giving away some of my books right now rather than later. But which ones should go? Obviously, I would keep personal favorites such as James Salter’s “A Sport and a Pastime,” Marilynne Robinson’s “Housekeeping,” Frederick Exley’s “A Fan’s Notes” and John Crowley’s “Little, Big,” as well as books I still hoped to read (Samuel Richardson’s “Clarissa,” Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene,” Cao Xueqin’s “The Story of the Stone”) or reread (Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall,” Boswell’s “The Life of Samuel Johnson,” Stendhal’s nonfiction, Macaulay’s essays, dozens of ghost-story collections, lots of P.G. Wodehouse, Edmund Crispin and Evelyn Waugh). I’d also retain material need for writing projects — mainly that popular fiction in the attic — and, not least, the first or special editions worth more than $100, including signed books by Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison and Hunter Thompson.

So, picture me two weeks ago, as I sat on a white plastic lawn chair inside a gigantic metal oven, picking up book after book and only occasionally feeling a Kondoesque spark of joy amid many spasms of regret. 

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 10, 1950  — Dimension X aired “The Green Hills of Earth”. Based on Robert Heinlein’s short story which originally appeared in the Saturday Evening Post on February 8, 1947, the title refers to a song that Heinlein wrote fragments of here and the filk community has filled out the lyrics down the years. It was adapted here by Ernest Kinoy who also did the same task at X Minus One. You can listen to it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 10, 1918 Barry Morse. He was Prof. Victor Bergman on Space: 1999, and he also appeared on the Twilight ZoneOuter Limits, The InvadersTekWarThe Martian ChroniclesRay Bradbury TheaterSpace Island OneMemory RunThe Shape of Things to Come and The Return of Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1918 – Frank Hamilton.   He didn’t invent the Shadow, or Doc Savage,  but he illustrated them excellently.  We in fandom know about Mipple-Stipple; his stippled style defies us to call it mundane.  Here is an FH Shadow on the cover of Frank Eisgruber’s Gangland’s Doomhere is the FH cover for a Doc Savage tribute; both with lots of interiors.  Here is a note from ThePulp.net with a 1982 FH self-portrait; here is a note from “The Shadow” wiki.  Find, if you can, his Amazing Pulp Heroes (with Link Hullar’s text).  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1922 – Judy Garland.  For us this star shines in the MGM Wizard of Oz – winning her only Academy Award.  I love the Oz Frank Baum wrote; in the MGM version much is right; and otherwise, as a law school professor of mine said – of a major figure with whom he disagreed vigorously – There is a sense in which a genius can’t be wrong.  The rest of her career was such a tragedy because there too she earned such glory.  (Died 1969) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1935 – Yoshiro Tatsumi.  He coined geika for a development of manga he preferred; see here.  I can’t go along with calling it more realistic, or saying that’s better – I had this quarrel with people when Watchmen first appeared – but Tatsumi-san was a genius, and we could stand knowing more about SF and related art of Japan.  Here is the cover for his memoir of 1945-1960 A Drifting Life (English version); here is a Wikipedia article about it; here is an article about geika and mangahere is an article in the Lambiek Comiclopedia with panels showing his work.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1937 Luciana Paluzzi, 73. She is best known for playing SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe in Thunderball. She also appeared in Hercules as Iole’s maid, The Green Slime as Doctor Lisa Benson, Captain Nemo and the Underwater City as Mala and The Six Million Dollar Man: The Solid Gold Kidnapping as Contessa DeRojas. (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1942 Jürgen Prochnow, 78. I thought he was a rather good Duke Leto Atreides in Dune. It certainly was the best of the genre films he did around that time as The KeepTerminus and The Seventh Sign were pretty awful horror films.  Much better was Robin Hood where he was  Sir Miles Folcanet. Then there’s Judge Dredd where he’s Judge Griffin… I’ll end his genre with his role as Cdr. Paul Gerald in Wing Commander. (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1951 Charles Vess, 69. If you ever need a crash course in learning about his art, go find a copy of Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess which lavishly covers his career up to a decade ago. I’ve got a personally signed copy here along with lots of his artwork. He’s had interesting career including the Spider-Man: Spirits of the Earth graphic novel that he wrote and illustrated. I strongly recommend the illustrated version of Stardust he did with Gaiman as it’s amazing. (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1952 Kage Baker. I never met her but we had a decade long conversation via email and once in a while via phone. We were supposed to write a Company concordance for Golden Gryphon but she got too ill for it to happen. Harry the Space Raptor is now living with her sister Katheleen. The two of them were also frequent attenders of Ren Faires were they set up a tavern and sold various sales. Kage had a deep fascination with Elizabethan English. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1953 – Don Maitz.  Two hundred thirty covers, a hundred twenty interiors from this luckily prolific artist; two Hugos, one Worldcon committee special award, ten Chesleys; World Fantasy award; Society of Illustrators Silver Medal.  Two art books, First Maitz (he created the image of Captain Sir Henry Morgan 1635-1688 for Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum) and Dreamquests; two sets of Don Maitz Fantasy Art Trading Cards.  Guest of Honor at – among others – Boskone 18, Lunacon 28, Loscon 19, Minicon 49, Balticon 27, and Lonestarcon 2 the 55th Worldcon (1997).  Here is his cover (with his wife Janny Wurts) for The Darkest Road.  Here is his cover for his Worldcon’s Souvenir Book.  [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1962 – Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, M.D., Ph.D.  Author, physician, Professor of Medicine at Tanta University.  Two hundred books in both Egyptian Arabic and Classical Arabic; also in Web-based magazines.  Refaat Ismael of his Beyond Nature series is a retired bachelor doctor with a sarcastic attitude who keeps having paranormal adventures.  In Utopia Egyptians live in a dystopian and utopian (or as I should say cacotopian and eutopian) society separated by walls; translated into English, Finnish, French, German.  Cheryl Morgan interviewed him in Locus 614.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1964 Andrew M. Niccol, 56. Screenwriter / producer / director who wrote and produced one of my favorite genre films, The Truman Show. The film won him a Hugo at Aussiecon Three.  He also was involved in GattacaThe TerminalIn TimeThe HostThe Minutes short videoand Anon. Sort of genre adjacent is that he‘s been announced as the screenwriter for a live version of the Monopoly game but it is still in development.  (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1986 – Amanda Havard.  In The Survivors and two sequels Sadie Matthau searches for answers about her family who survived the Salem witch trials through supernatural abilities; on an Immersedition interactive book application are AH’s original music, and maps, photos, background, commentary; a syndication at Wattpad.com has had 5 million readers.  Independent Publisher‘s Editor’s Choice award, eLit bronze medals for Fantasy – Science Fiction and Young Adult.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) TO PUT A POINT ON IT. James Davis Nicoll curates “Five SFF Works Inspired by RPGs”.

… Herewith, some works with RPG DNA: works that you may not know and may like, featuring the now familiar teams of skilled adventurers—don’t call them murder hobos—using their diverse skill set to solve problems. Usually by stabbing them.

(13) BATWOMAN POST RUBY ROSE. Entertainment Weekly explains that Batwoman is replacing Ruby Rose’s Kate Kane with a new character”.

Just because Batwoman plans on introducing a brand new character to pick up the titular hero’s mantle in the wake of Ruby Rose’s exit doesn’t mean the CW superhero drama will forget about Kate Kane. In fact, Kate’s absence will baked into the show’s second season in the same way that Bruce Wayne’s was in the first season.

[…] “To be honest with you, I did consider the ‘soap opera version’ [of recasting] for a hot minute, because selfishly we already had a couple episodes written, and transition-wise it would be seamless,” [showrunner Caroline Dries] said, according to TVLine. “But upon further reflection — and I think [Arrowverse EP] Greg [Berlanti] helped me make this call — he’s like, ‘I think we should just reboot Batwoman as a different character.’” She went on to explain that this decision allowed them to honor Rose’s work in season 1 while also not forcing the audience to put a new face to a character they’d already spent time getting to know.

(14) IT’S A BIRD…IT’S A PLANE. Well, it’s a very small one. Gizmodo informs us “Google’s Drone Delivery Service Now Dropping Library Books to Kids”.

Book-loving kids in Christiansburg, Va., are about to get a special delivery to ease the boredom of summer quarantine (and months of being stuck at home). Google will soon start dropping books to kids via its drone delivery service, Wing, according to the Washington Post. Now they can get their hands on a copy of The One and Only Bob (if they don’t already own it).

… Google’s book delivery service is an extension of the company’s drone service, which first partnered with FedEx and Walgreens to deliver over-the-counter medicines and other items to Christianburg residents last October. That pilot program has continued throughout the pandemic. Wing also partnered with local restaurants to deliver meals to residents; that service also saw an increase in demand during quarantine. Google has been testing Wing since 2014, when the drones made their first test flights in Queensland, Australia.

(15) STANDING DOWN. NPR reports: “IBM Abandons Facial Recognition Products, Condemns Racially Biased Surveillance”.

IBM will no longer provide facial recognition technology to police departments for mass surveillance and racial profiling, Arvind Krishna, IBM’s chief executive, wrote in a letter to Congress.

Krishna wrote that such technology could be used by police to violate “basic human rights and freedoms,” and that would be out of step with the company’s values.

“We believe now is the time to begin a national dialogue on whether and how facial recognition technology should be employed by domestic law enforcement agencies,” Krishna said.

The nationwide demonstrations following the police killing of George Floyd already have led to changes to police departments around the country – over use of force policies, police misconduct and police contracts.

The moment of reckoning over the country’s relationship with law enforcement also comes as artificial-intelligence researchers and technology scholars continue to warn about facial recognition software, particularly how some of the data-driven systems have been shown to be racially biased. For instance, the MIT Media Lab has found that the technology is often less successful at identifying the gender of darker-skinned faces, which could lead to misidentifications.

People interviewed by the BBC expressed doubts:

Privacy International’s Eva Blum-Dumontet said the firm had coined the term “smart city”.

“All around the world, they pushed a model or urbanisation which relied on CCTV cameras and sensors processed by police forces, thanks to the smart policing platforms IBM was selling them,” she said.

“This is why is it is very cynical for IBM to now turn around and claim they want a national dialogue about the use of technology in policing.”

She added: “IBM are trying to redeem themselves because they have been instrumental in developing the technical capabilities of the police through the development of so-called smart policing techniques. But let’s not be fooled by their latest move.

“First of all, their announcement was ambiguous. They talk about ending ‘general purpose’ facial recognition, which makes me think it will not be the end of facial recognition for IBM, it will just be customised in the future.”

The Algorithmic Justice League was one of the first activist groups to indicate that there were racial biases in facial recognition data sets.

(16) ANOTHER RWA REFORM. Romance Writers of America, in “Dreamspinner Advocacy”, admits they didn’t adequately pursue the missing author payments from this publisher under the previous regime. They’re gathering statements to work on it now.

As we lay the foundation for RWA 2.0, one of the Board of Directors’ priorities is to strengthen RWA’s professional relations advocacy. To this end, we are reviving our advocacy efforts with respect to Dreamspinner Press and its missing author payments. Previous advocacy on this matter did not properly or fully address the issues, leaving many members unsupported. This is unacceptable and antithetical to our mission, and the Board and staff are committed to doing everything we can to support our members now to the greatest extent possible.

We will be reaching out to Dreamspinner Press to demand payments due to our members on behalf of our members who request that we do so. We also will be working with RWA’s attorney to explore all of our options in this matter. We will keep the membership updated on this process.

We would like to hear from any member who is a Dreamspinner Press author about your situation and what you would ideally like to see from our advocacy efforts. Also, if any members would like to contribute accurate, verifiable statements about their experiences with Dreamspinner Press to be used both in outreach to the publisher and in a potential public statement to better inform both members and non-members about the situation, we are collecting those by June 30, 2020.

(17) A CLOSER LOOK. “Planet’s satellites aim for still sharper view of Earth” — examples, and one picture just for drama.

When SpaceX puts up another batch of its Starlink satellites in the coming days, there’ll be three spacecraft from the Planet company catching the same Falcon rocket ride to orbit.

These companies – SpaceX and Planet – now operate the largest commercial constellations above our heads. SpaceX at over 450 satellites; Planet at more than 150.

SpaceX is targeting broadband communications; Planet is all about Earth observation, and this next launch marks a big milestone in the San Francisco outfit’s plans.

These next three platforms that go up with SpaceX will go into Planet’s SkySat network.

Already this comprises 15 spacecraft. The satellites were lowered in recent months from 500km in altitude to 450km, to increase their resolution. They now see any feature on the Earth’s surface larger than 50cm.

With the addition of the soon-to-launch threesome, and a further three about a month later, Planet will then have 21 of the high-resolution imagers circling the globe. At that point, the SkySats will be able to see any spot on the ground (cloud permitting) on average up seven times a day.

(18) MORE ON THE ANDROID BLIT. “‘How my photo ended up breaking Android phones'”.

Gaurav Agrawal, a scientist and amateur photographer living in San Diego, couldn’t believe it when he suddenly started seeing a photograph he took last summer popping up on the news.

He took it at St Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana, one “magical evening” in August 2019.

He shared the snap on photo platform Flickr and thought no more about it.

However, a glitch meant that when the image was set as wallpaper, it caused some Android phones to fail.

The handsets would switch on and off repeatedly, requiring a factory reset which meant all data on them was wiped.

Last week, a tweet about the bug went viral – and Mr Agrawal contacted me.

…”It was a magical evening,” Mr Agrawal told the BBC of the night he took the photo, in the park with his wife. It was their third trip there, in pursuit of the perfect picture.

“It was gloomy and cloudy, and we thought there wasn’t going to be a great sunset. We were about to leave when things started to change.”

He grabbed the shot on his Nikon camera, and later did a small edit using the editing software Lightroom.

And that’s where the bug crept in.

Lightroom gives three colour-mode options for exporting the finished result – and the one he picked is the one that seems to confuse some Android handsets.

(19) MM-MM-GOOD. “Italian woman prepares olives during brain tumour operation”.

Brain operation patients have been asked to play the violin or the guitar during surgery, but until now there is no record of anyone stuffing olives on the operating table.

A 60-year-old Italian woman did just that during a procedure to remove a tumour from her left temporal lobe.

The neurosurgeon at Ancona’s Riuniti hospital said the two and a half hour procedure “went very well”.

His patient is said to have prepared 90 olives in the space of an hour.

Awake brain surgery, as it is known, is used to treat some neurological conditions such as tumours that affect the areas of the brain responsible for vision, movement or speech. To help the surgeon try to inflict minimal damage on healthy tissue, the patient can be asked questions or engaged in an activity during the operation.

As the left temporal lobe controls speech, memory and movement of the right part of the body, neurosurgeon Roberto Trignani told Ansa news agency the method “allows us to monitor the patient while we work on their brain functions and to calibrate our action”.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Seven of Nine And The Doctor Singing ‘My Darling Clementine'” on YouTube is another clip of Jeri Ryan and Robert Picardo singing from Star Trek: Voyager.

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Jeanne Jackson, Mike Kennedy, Jeffrey Smith, Michael Toman, Eric Wong, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 6/7/20 It’s Just An Old Fashioned Pixel Scroll, One I’m Sure They Wrote For You And Me

(1) GETTING PAID. On Twitter today, under the #PublishingPaidMe hashtag, writers disclosed the amounts of their book advances in order to generate data that will show if there are systematic biases against writers of color and other marginalized groups.

N. K. Jemisin responded — complete thread here. Comments include:

Jemisin also took questions:

Alyssa Cole, whose comments on RWA have been quoted here before, said it this way:

  • Martha Wells was one of several other sff authors who participated. Her tweets, which weren’t threaded, are here, here and here.
  • John Scalzi gave figures and analyzed the context in which they were paid for a post at Whatever.
  • Irene Gallo, Associate Publisher of Tor.com and Creative Director of Tor Books, linked the discussion to artists, as well.

(2) RWA STATEMENT ON SYSTEMIC RACISM. “A Statement and Action Plan from Romance Writers of America” parallels the strategy SFWA announced earlier this week:

…As an organization that just went through a massive crisis for many of the same reasons that underscore these protests for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and so many more —injustice, racism, and unfairness—we acknowledge that we have turned aside from confronting difficult truths for far too long. That our authors from marginalized communities, especially our Black authors, have been treated as somehow less deserving of a seat at the table of publishing. We must admit and learn from this shameful past, while standing up for our goal and commitment to make the future better. We stand together in the fight against systemic racism….

RWA is taking the following steps in addition to our continuing work on diversity issues and continuing efforts to make our organization a safe place for Black writers:

  • We invite all Black authors in RWA to attend our first online conference, to be held August 28-30, at no charge. This admission will include the recordings of the conference 
  • We will make 100 scholarships to our online conference available to non-member Black writers
  • We are making it a priority to find new resources to add to our Diversity and Inclusion Resources page on our website
  • We will direct our Academic Grants Committee to seek out Black academics studying romance to consider for RWA grants
  • This is a time when so many of us are terrified, alone, and feeling helpless. We offer the following links, for those who wish to learn more or find a way to contribute. 

(3) UNCLE HUGO’S UPDATE: If you’re someone who wants to contribute by sending a check or money order (rather than donate online through the “Official Help Save Uncle Hugo’s Fund” GoFundMe), Don Blyly gave me an address for that purpose. Contact me at mikeglyer@cs.com.

The GoFundMe has raised $113,269 as of today.

(4) RECOVERING. David Dyer-Bennett’s photo gallery, “Signs Over Windows”, documents the messages and art on the boarding over vandalized windows in downtown Minneapolis. Also includes images of the scorched bits of books in the rubble around Uncle Hugo’s.

In the aftermath of the Minneapolis Police killing George Floyd, Minneapolis has experienced much distress. We’re being forced to confront issues we’ve let slide for too long (or that our work has not usefully improved). There is a huge amount of anger of course, both immediate and accumulated over decades and centuries. There is despair. There are even some tendrils of hope.

I’m not a suitable person to deal with the big issues here. I’ll keep listening, and I’ll keep voting and pressuring my representatives to do what seems right, but I’m not a leader in any of this.

But the visual changes to the city around me have been striking. In some areas, most businesses have put plywood (or OSB) over all their windows and other glass. That by itself is a big change, but not visually very interesting. However, much of the plywood has been painted with slogans and war cries, straight-forwardly or artistically, or even graphic art. Both the text, and the appearance, have been catching my attention, so I started photographing these decorated sheets of plywood….

(5) TECH IMAGINED. “Ken Liu: ‘We get to define the stories we want to be told about us.’” Mary Wang interviews the author for Guernica. Tagline: “Using photos of his text editors, mapmaking software, and 3D-printed prototypes, the writer talks about technology, myth, and telling stories during a pandemic.”

Wang: If you were a different type of writer, I might ask you how you conceive of characters and build plot. But since you talk about engineering as a language, it would make more sense for me to ask how you conceive of technologies. How do they come about, how do you then refine them, and finally, how do you incorporate them into the story?

Liu: I love talking about this stuff. My other former careers consisted of being a litigation consultant and a corporate lawyer, so I did a lot of research into the history of patents and the history of technology. That turns out to be a great way to find inspiration for fictional machines. If you go into patent databases, you’ll see tons and tons of interesting inventions that never went anywhere. But that doesn’t mean that, in an alternate universe, they couldn’t have become successful and become the progenitor of new lineages of machines. 

I also get a lot of inspiration from reading about archaeological discoveries of ancient machinery. The Chinese had invented these amazing compound looms that could be programmed to create complex textile patterns, and we didn’t know how they worked because they didn’t survive. But the latest archaeological discoveries actually found some of these looms, or models of them made out of ceramic as grave goods, so archaeologists have been able to recreate them and figure them out. They were amazing, like mechanical computers that could be programmed to weave specific patterns. Similarly, archaeologists realized that Heron of Alexandria, a great Greek inventor of antiquity, had devised all sorts of machines for temple magic as part of religious rituals. That turned out to anticipate many of our modern ideas about cybernetics and autonomous control.

These lines of technology didn’t go very far, but in the fictional world I was creating, I could take it as far as I wanted to. …

(6) HIS NEXT RODEO. Congratulations to Ziv Wities (Standback) for making the grade at Podcastle.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 7, 1997 Perversions of Science premiered on HBO. It was a spin-off of HBO’s Tales from the Crypt. Its episodes were based off of work from EC Comics’s Incredible Science FictionWeird Fantasy and Weird Science titles. It would last but for one season of ten episodes. Writers adapting those stories included David S. Goyer (the Blade trilogy screenplays), David Schow (The Crow with John Shirley) and Andrew Kevin Walker (Sleepy Hollow screenplay).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 7, 1844 – Robert Milne.  Rediscovered by Sam Moskowitz, who helped collect RM’s stories for Into the Sun.  Eleven there; fifty more not yet reprinted, e.g. “The Great Electric Diaphragm”, “A Dip into the Doings of the Four-Dimensional World”, “What the Great Instrument in the Lick Observatory Observed”.  Even I found the Into the Sun stories and four more here.  (Died 1899) [JH]
  • Born June 7, 1915 Graham J. Ingels. Illustrator best remembered for his work in EC Comics during the Fifties, most notably on The Haunt of Fear, Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror. He illustrated one genre magazine, Planet Stories cover as you can see here. Thought didn’t do any other covers, he was a regular interior artist for both Planet Stories and Planet Comics. (Died 1991.)(CE)
  • Born June 7, 1924 Jon Ewban White. Writer who was the script doctor for The Day of the Triffids. He was the writer for Witch Hunt, a dark fantasy series that ran BBC for six episodes. He even wrote an Avengers episode, “Propellent 23”.  His one film screenplay was “Crack in the World” which was straight SF Sixties style story about of the end brought on by the follies of man. You can watch it here. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born June 7, 1932 – Kit Reed.  Sixteen novels in our field; a hundred forty shorter stories, three dozen in The Story Until Now; fourteen more novels.  First published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction under Boucher.  Translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian.  Guggenheim Fellow.  Called herself a trans-genred writer.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born June 7, 1946 – Jon White.  Fanziner and bookseller.  Revived Inside in 1962, brought in Leland Sapiro who renamed it Riverside Quarterly (after a famous dwelling in New York).  Here is the front cover by Arthur Thomson (“Atom”) for vol. 1 no. 2.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • Born June 7, 1949 – Real Musgrave.  Graphic artist who has maintained a fannish connection.  Artist Guest of Honor at Westercon XLI (here is the cover of its Program Book); exhibited at Magicon, the 50th Worldcon.  Here is a cover for Fantasy Review.  Pocket Dragons, done as drawings, figurines, animated television series.  Brother of astronaut Story Musgrave.  [JH]
  • Born June 7, 1954 – Louise Erdrich.  In the first class of women admitted to Dartmouth (A.B., English; later, honorary Litt. D. and Commencement speaker).  Member of Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians; her grandfather was tribal chief.  National Book Award for Fiction, Lib. Cong. Prize for Amer. Fiction, Amer. Acad. Poets Prize, Pushcart Prize.  Love Medicine, only début novel to win the Nat’l Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.  Children’s books; Scott O’Dell Award for The Game of Silence.  World Fantasy Award for The Antelope Wife; three more novels in our field.  Interview in December 2017 Lightspeed.  [JH]
  • Born June 7, 1967 Dayton Ward, 53. Writer best known for his Trek fiction which began with publication in the Strange New Worlds anthology series. To say he’s written a lot of that media tie-in fiction is an understatement as he’s written forty novels so far with the Mirror Universe and the Starfleet Corps of Engineers being but two of the subjects he tackles. He already written one novel for one of the latest series, Star Trek: Discovery: Drastic Measures. (CE)
  • Born June 7, 1968 Sarah Parish, 52. In “The Runaway Bride“, a Tenth Doctor story, she got to play, with the assistance of extensive CGI, one of the nastiest Who villains to date, The Empress of the Racnoss, an oversized vicious spider with a human face. Great episode. It’s our introduction to Donna Noble, his Companion for quite some time to come. In a much lighter role, she played Pasiphaë on BBC’s Atlantis series. (CE)
  • Born June 7, 1974 David Filoni, 46. Creator and an executive producer on Star Wars Rebels, a most awesome series, for all four seasons, and was supervising director and a writer on another excellent series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. (I like the animated series far better than the live action films.) He makes his live acting debut in The Mandalorian playing Trapper Wolf, an X-Wing pilot, in “The Prisoner” episode. It’s also worth noting that he his first job was directing episodes during the first season of animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender (CE) 
  • Born June 7, 1978 – Jesse Ball.  Novelist and poet; spare, surrealistic, and strange.  Went to Vassar, which would have saddened my grandmother who never wanted it to go co-ed.  Guggenheim Fellowship; Illinois Author of the Year, 2015; Berlin Prize; Plimpton Prize.  Gordon Burn Prize for Census; two more novels and a book of shorter stories in our field; five more novels, drawings, non-fiction.  Faculty, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he got Wikipedia to believe he teaches lying, ambiguity, dreaming, walking; and maybe he does.  [JH]

(9) OUT OF SORTS. Meanwhile, back at the Tingleverse:

(10) SHOWING THE WAY. “Ronald McNair’s Civil Disobedience: The Illustrated Story of How a Little Boy Who Grew Up to Be a Trailblazing Astronaut Fought Segregation at the Public Library” by Maria Popova at Brain Pickings.

“Knowledge sets us free… A great library is freedom,” Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in contemplating the sacredness of public libraries. “Freedom is not something that anybody can be given; freedom is something people take and people are as free as they want to be,” her contemporary James Baldwin — who had read his way from the Harlem public library to the literary pantheon — insisted in his courageous and countercultural perspective on freedom.

Ronald McNair (October 21, 1950–January 28, 1986) was nine when he took his freedom into his own small hands.

Unlike Maya Angelou, who credited a library with saving her life, McNair’s triumphant and tragic life could not have been saved even by a library — he was the age I am now when he perished aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger before the eyes of a disbelieving nation. But his life was largely made by a library — a life equal parts inspiring and improbable against the cultural constrictions of his time and place; a life of determination that rendered him the second black person to launch into space, a decade and a half after a visionary children’s book first dared imagine the possibility….

(11) PLATFORM MATURES. “TikTok Pivots From Dance Moves To A Racial Justice Movement”NPR has the story.

When Raisha Doumbia, a 20-year-old swimming instructor in Roswell, Ga., first downloaded the video-sharing app TikTok, she made lighthearted posts, like her lip-syncing and dancing to a song by the British girl group Little Mix.

But Doumbia paused the playful routines after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis. Now she is using her TikTok feed to urge followers to march for racial justice.

…All of a sudden, TikTok has become the go-to forum for burgeoning youth activism.

“Anger, dismay, disgust and unhappiness are all feelings that can be easily transmitted on a video on Tik Tok,” Aho Williamson said.

Black creators accuse TikTok of suppression

Activism arrived on TikTok just as scrutiny of its parent company, the Chinese-owned ByteDance, intensified.

As protests began to sweep the nation, black creators noticed that videos tagged #GeorgeFloyd or #BlackLivesMatter were hard to find, or looked as though no one had watched them despite a torrent of views.

To some users, it was a suspicious development, considering that ByteDance has censored videos of anti-Beijing protests in Hong Kong, in addition to having been exposed for previously suppressing posts from users deemed too unattractive or undesirable for the platform.

TikTok insists that is not what happened in posts related to Black Lives Matter. In an about-face, the company apologized and blamed the problem on a “technical glitch.”

“Nevertheless, we understand that many assumed this bug to be an intentional act to suppress the experiences and invalidate the emotions felt by the black community. And we know we have work to do to regain and repair that trust,” said Vanessa Pappas, TikTok’s general manager for the U.S.

(12) TROMPE L’OEIL. Those who got to L.A.con III may remember the debut of Omar Rayyan with some stunning fool-the-eye work. Now somebody’s doing it in public: “David Zinn: Street art that washes away in the rain” – video.

David Zinn is a professional chalk artist who’s on a mission to show that you don’t need fancy equipment to draw.

His work has appeared on subway platforms in Manhattan, village squares in Sweden and street corners in Taiwan.

(13) HIGH PRAISE.“A Master of Hidden Things” is John Banville’s tribute to a fine writer in The New York Review of Books.

…Revisiting Elizabeth Bowen’s Collected Stories, one realizes that there are certain literary works that, once read, make one burn with envy of those readers who have still to come to them for the first time.* There is not a story in this substantial volume, from the first to the last, that is not brought off beautifully. While it is no doubt foolhardy and certainly vulgar to choose favorites, one must mention instances in which Bowen outdid herself. These include the elusive but vividly immediate “Summer Night”; the haunting “Mysterious Kôr” and the haunted “The Demon Lover”; the trance-like wartime set pieces “Ivy Gripped the Steps” and “The Happy Autumn Fields”; the forlorn “Joining Charles”; and the merely—merely!—marvelous early tales “Daffodils” and “The Parrot.” In these and many other of the stories, Bowen reached, as Glendinning puts it, “a perfection and a unity that the sustained narrative and shifting emphases of a novel do not attempt.”

(14) WORK WITH WHAT YOU’VE GOT. “How map hacks and buttocks helped Taiwan fight Covid-19”.

With direct flights to Wuhan and a population of 24 million people living in densely packed cities, Taiwan’s coronavirus outlook seemed grave.

But, to date, the disease has claimed just seven lives on the island, and it never went into full lockdown.

Its leaders credit masks as playing a key role, but not for the reasons you might suppose.

“Masks are something that, first, reminds you to wash your hands properly and, second, protects you from touching your mouth – that is the main benefit to the person who wears it,” explains Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s digital minister.

Taiwan’s citizens have worn face masks for health and other reasons since the 1950s, but the spread of coronavirus prompted a spate of panic-buying.

To even out demand, the masks had to be rationed while production was ramped up, from two million to 20 million items a day.

Long queues snaked back from pharmacies and other outlets – which posed a risk of contagion in themselves. So, the government decided data about each location’s stock levels should be made publicly available.

To do so, Ms Tang’s ministry launched a platform which each vendor could keep updated with their stock numbers.

Then, Taiwan’s hacking community, with whom the government had been building a strong relationship for years, stepped in.

It began drawing on the data, which had been made public, to build a series of real-time ‘mask maps’.

…Earlier this week, Chien-Jen Chen – the island’s former vice-president and a renowned epidemiologist – told British MPs that a well-designed contact tracing system and the application of strict quarantine rules to inbound visitors had also played a major role

But he too said the nature of the island’s “hyper-democracy” – and the efforts its health chiefs had made to gain the public’s trust – were the key factors in it success.

Those in power aren’t just responsive to the voices of citizens, but also the memes and other messages they share.

It helped the government counter false claims that the material used to make masks was the same as that found in toilet paper. In response Taiwan’s Premier posted a self-mocking cartoon, which showed his bottom wiggling, alongside an explanation of the different sources that toilet paper and mask paper come from.

“It went absolutely viral” says Ms Tang, of the government strategy referred to as “humour over rumour”.

[Thanks to John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, BravoLimaPoppa, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]